Tool to help distinguish between viral, bacterial infections

NEW YORK: In a bid to stop the spread of antibiotic resistance, scientists are developing a tool to
help physicians differentiate between bacterial and viral infections.

Researchers identified 11 genetic markers in blood that accurately distinguished between viral and bacterial infections. Antibiotics help us fight bacterial infections, but are not effective and should not be used to treat viruses.

“It is extremely difficult to interpret what is causing a respiratory tract infection, especially in very ill patients who come to the hospital with a high fever, cough, shortness of breath and other concerning symptoms,” said Ann R Falsey, professor at University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in the US.

Researchers studied 94 adults hospitalised with lower respiratory tract infections.They gathered their clinical data, took blood from each patient, and conducted a battery of microbiologic tests to determine which individuals had a bacterial infection and which had a non-bacterial or viral infection.

The team then used complex genetic and statistical analysis to pinpoint markers in the blood that correctly
classified the patients with bacterial infections 80 to 90 per cent of the time.”Our genes react differently to a virus than they do to bacteria,” said Thomas J Mariani, professor at URMC.

“Rather than trying to detect the specific organism that is making an individual sick, we are using genetic data to help us determine what is affecting the patient and when an antibiotic is appropriate or not,” Mariani said.The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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